Portico Quartet have grown as expectations of them have done the same. As their popularity has flourished they have pushed boundaries in instrumentation, improvisation and ultimately transformation - developing from jazz to something altogether different. This new breed of ambient ‘Efterklang-Jazz’ filled Leeds' Brudenell Social Club with coiled anticipation.

The audience was calm and swaying with about three rogue maniacs flailing to their hearts content, all three of which I was standing next to. The stage, littered in an intriguing array of instruments including a skeletal electric double bass, a tiny saxophone and a pair of barbecue-like steel drums. The soft, intensity of Portico’s music was in mind as they moved out to perform, the pink lighting and dancing shadows making for a warming backdrop to a thrilling performance. It seems they truly know how best to stagger and pace their material - each song was carefully delivered with gradual builds and potent drops. Amazingly, despite instruments changing hands between every other song, these transitions were smooth and continuous, never once breaking the hypnotic swell of the set.

This sharing of instruments is always an enviable trait in a band. For Portico is gives the four piece the dexterity to move with their compositions, never being structurally defined by a ‘band’ set up. This sense of fluidity was only increased by Cornelia, a Swedish siren who has also performed with the likes of Bonobo. She glided onto the stage and effortlessly added a more vivid energy to an otherwise quite reserved stage presence. Not that this reservedness reflected in their music, that was of a very high quality, as though driven by the intricate drumming underpinning it all. A good balance of old and new cuts were included, such as ‘City of Glass’ and ‘Rubidium’ from their 2012 self-titled album, and ‘Steepless’ from their new live album accompanied by Cornelia’s almost eerie voice. This dashing quartet left both old fans and first time Portico listeners satisfied and eager to further explore their potential.

Words: Jenny Wright

AuthorDuncan Harrison